Watch the series is a new feature at B and S About Movies. In one post, we’ll watch the entire run of a franchise and share some facts and plenty of opinions. There’s no more appropriate series to start with than Halloween.
SAM: One of the struggles I’ve had with this blog (and our podcast) is often that I want to share movies that aren’t well known. That is because so many films have been discussed over and over again. We’ve read just about everything there is to read about them — the Halloween series being a prime example. But it is Halloween. And I’m a huge fan of these influential films. And Becca’s favorite movie is Halloween 2. So here goes.
SAM: What can you say about this film? I’ve seen it on regular television. I’ve watched it at the drive-in. I’ve seen it on an inflatable screen with nearly the entire cast and crew in attendance. Sure, you can point to A Bay of Blood, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas and other films as the start of the slasher genre. Hell, so much of giallo could be the origin for these films. But Halloween was the real start of this genre in the United States.
If you were born after this movie was made, it may seem simplistic to you. But you’re missing out on the paradigm shift that John Carpenter made. From its influential Steadicam opening shots (non-storyboarded, done in a day and the magic that would make Dean Cundey famous) to the electronic score to the fact that the killer kills for no reason whatsoever, there may have been movies like this before, but there had never been a movie like this.
I have a very personal reason why this movie was such a big deal. My father watched it on HBO one night and was so frightened, he slept with the lights on. When you’re under ten years old and your dad is freaked out? That’s when a movie is really scary.
BECCA: A lot of it has to do with the Stedi-Cam shot in the beginning. It’s the most realistic of the films, so it seems the scariest. When you compare it to Jason, it got ridiculous how much makeup he had in the later films. Michael Myers has always looked somewhat normal. The characters are all so real, so it had the biggest impression on me.
One of the reasons I love Halloween is that I shared them all with my dad.
SAM: Better reviewers have already said better things about this film. That said — Becca loves this movie and is able to tell you exactly what is happening on screen just by the sound cues.
As slashers increased in ferocity, this movie matches and exceeds them. It’s a brutal affair where even the good side — Dr. Loomis in particular — are just as crazed as their evil counterparts.
Plus, this film wastes no time. It starts immediately where we left off and The Shape never stops coming and never pauses for remorse. The only downside is that the more you explain his motivations, the less interesting it becomes.
That said — the scene near the end of Michael Myers bleeding from his eyes, which seems to barely faze him, is one of the most iconic in horror. If you’ve put this film off or thought it was just a cash-in (it is, but it’s also much more), you owe it a watch.
BECCA: I don’t even know what to say. This is my favorite movie of all time, top to bottom. Everything from Mrs. Elrod (“You want mayonnaise on your sandwich? How about mustard?”) to the POV shots to Bud singing to my boyfriend Lance Guest to a needle being stabbed in Dr. Mixter’s eyeball…it’s everything. Having to crawl away from Michael Myers is the most intense scene in any of the Halloween movies.
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
SAM: To this day (in fact, it happened on the very day I’m writing this), people will say, “I love Halloween, except that one with the masks.” It’s at that point that I excuse myself from the conversation. If John Carpenter and Deborah Hill’s plan to make a seasonal anthology had worked, we would have had plenty of interesting films to obsess over. Instead, we have the diminishing returns of the films that followed.
I get it. There are so many plot holes and flaws in logic and the whole concept — a piece of Stonehenge is stolen and used to make masks that kill kids — is ridiculous. But I don’t care — any film that combines Quatermass with Invasion of the Body Snatchers and puts Tom Atkins in the lead is going to own my heart.
Don’t believe me? My band ends every set with this song, a ten-minute adaption of Conal Cochran’s speech in the final moments of the film, that is always dedicated to Atkins.
BECCA: Tom Atkins is my older husband and I run into him all over the city of Pittsburgh. Chance meetings make him very dear to my heart. There’s no Michael Myers, but it’s on the same level. It’s filmed the same way. There’s a dark, almost fairy tale-like story that they put behind it. My hero from #2 rejoins the cast as a robot — Dick Warlock.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Six years later — in a world overstocked with Jason and Freddy sequels, The Shape returned to menace his niece, Jamie Lloyd, after ten years in a coma. The results, honestly, put me a in a coma. Sadly, when you see where things would go…
This film feels nearly bloodless after the second film. And pretty much heartless.
BECCA: I really like all the people they cast in it. They’re very believable in their role. I like the truckers. It just feels…it has a creepy feel to it. It has the best opening credits, the way it’s filmed. At this point, they almost turn him from a weirdo to a strong bad ass with muscles. This is the first movie where he’s super strong and can almost do things that are unbelievable. For people who are younger than me, this is probably the first one that they saw.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
SAM: Michael Myers takes a page out of Frankenstein, as an old hermit nurses him back to life after the last film’s mine shaft death sequence. Then he goes right back to killing and stalking his niece. The one exciting moment — when a mysterious stranger in black kills nearly the entire cast at the conclusion of the film — suggests that whatever happens next, it’s going to be awesome. I agree with Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris, who wanted to continue the story of Jamie turning evil after stabbing her stepmother in the past film.
BECCA: One word: Tina. Michael and his convertible…Mikey. That mean asshole, he gets hit with a rake and Michael Myers steals her car to get him.
SAM: How many times have you seen this movie?
BECCA: Five billion. It’s one of the ones I rented every week. I don’t know why my parents didn’t just find this and buy it.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
SAM: Remember that potential I discussed?
Even Michael Myers’ shape (I nearly wrote The Shape’s shape) doesn’t stay consistent in this film, as he’s played by George Wilbur in the originally shot footage and A. Michael Lerner in the reshot footage. Yep — the film tested poorly with audiences and was almost completely reshot.
Jamie, who we were taught to care about in the last two films, is killed off pretty quickly. Everyone we’ve met before at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium is part of a cult. And Paul Rudd is in it.
That said, there’s a lot to love about this film. It has an almost insane devotion to trying to establish some mythology behind the films, with the Thorn cult becoming a Carpenter-like secret conspiracy behind the scenes. I’ve watched the original and producer’s cuts of the film several times and there are some ideas there. There are some creative kills. And there’s a lot of unrepentant meanness in the Strode household that is some effective melodrama. It just never seems to all work together to make a great film, which is frustrating. The pieces are all there!
BECCA: I really like Paul Rudd in this. It’s sad that you can tell that Dr. Loomis is on his way out. He looks really sick and it makes me really sad.
SAM: Anything else?
BECCA: I like that there’s a baby in it. I hate everyone else in this movie other than Paul Rudd and Dr. Loomis. Especially Barry Simms — the guy who was supposed to be played by Howard Stern.
If I raked two yards in one day, my dad would take me to see this in the theater. That’s how I got to see this.
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later
SAM: John Carpenter was on board to direct this before his asking price — $10 million, which would be compensation for the money he felt that he never received from the original Halloween — wasn’t agreed to. Jamie Lee Curtis was back, as Laurie Strode was back from the dead and everything in the past films was ignored.
It has a nice callback with Nurse Marion Chambers-Wittington in the opening of the film, but otherwise, the film is very by the numbers. And yet it’s the highest grossing film in the series.
BECCA: Is it really? That’s terrible. It’s the only one my mom went to see. Every five minutes she was hitting my dad, smacking my brother and at the end when they cut off the guy’s head, she screamed like someone stabbed her. She may have peed her pants. All that and that’s the only reason I like this film.
SAM: The second film in the series to be directed by Rick Rosenthal, Michael Myers and reality TV collide and The Shape gets his ass kicked by Busta Rhymes. Oh yeah — and Laurie Strode gets killed in the middle of the movie. Yeah.
BECCA: The only part I like is Busta Rhymes.
The Rob Zombie films
SAM: I find these films just as divisive as the third film. Rob Zombie’s decision to reveal the backstory of Michael Myers, removing any and all mystery, takes away the true terror of what makes John Carpenter’s original film tick. What you’re left with is a by the numbers slash, gore and stalk.
The second film takes elements of the original sequel (much like how Spinal Tap was once The New Originals) and moves them into surrealistic and stylistic territory, with white horses running throughout and brutal gore. In this second attempt, Zombie finally makes good on Carpenter’s wish that he make the movie his. However, the movie that Zombie wants to make, time and time again, is Eaten Alive or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
BECCA: It’s a too long music video.
SAM: Sadly, the 2009 second film would be the last time The Shape would hit the big screen for nearly a decade, despite false several false starts. With the announcement that both Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis would be appearing in October 2018’s Halloween Returns. In a modern cinema where new horror comes in drips and disappointments are many, I’m waiting for this film with equal parts excitement and cynicism.
BECCA: Rob Zombie gets the atmosphere down. But he only uses the same people in the same movies, not based on if they fit the movie, but who they are. He just wants to fit into a niche. He loves being cliche.
Rob Zombie should go steal his own serial killers. He made him into a monster truck with the grunting and growling (makes noises) and he’s so big…
The originals are scarier because any weirdo could put on a mask and kill people, not this behemoth unrealistic person.
I am very excited and hope that the new movie does it justice, unlike Mr. vegan meanie. You can also write down that I unfollowed him on Instagram because I cannot watch animal murder videos. It doesn’t help them, it’s just for shock value.